Wheelskins: Chrome For Styled Wheels

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“Wheelskin” is a relatively new term. Wheelskins were invented in the late 1990s to provide an inexpensive way to put chrome on styled wheels.

After WWII, auto racing enthusiasts introduced new technologies and materials to every aspect of race cars to reduce weight and improve speed and handling. One of those improvements, mag wheels remains in the vernacular to this day.

Halibrand magnesium wheels carried every car that won the Indy 500 from 1946 to 1963. Those early wheels were made of magnesium, which was far lighter than steel, and a even third lighter than aluminum. The major drawback of the true magnesium wheel was the need to polish it regularly, because magnesium reacts rapidly to air and water to produce a heavy surface oxide, which then pits. The shift to aluminum alloys reduced these problems.

Early aluminum alloy wheels were made in fairly simple designs. As more sophisticated, high strength molding and forging processes were developed, more intricate and artistic designs became common. The original purpose of decreased weight for track performance metamorphosed to style and expression.

Adoption of styled alloy wheels became...

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